Web2.0 Adoption in Large Enterprises

ExecutiveBiz members have been treated to some great presentations from Web2.0 experts, including some who have succeeded in implementing Web2.0 capabilities in very large organizations.  Two of the greatest presenters who have interacted with us are Chris Rasmussen and Sean Dennehy, pictured here.

After engaging with them in our venue and tracking how Web2.0 technologies are implemented in many other organizations I have a thesis I would like to try out on you.  I believe there are three ways to reap the benefit of Web2.0 in large enterprises:

1) Just wait and do nothing.  Eventually all people in large organizations leave, either on their feet or on their back, and as they do they will be replaced by people who probably know more about Web2.0 so these new capabilities will slowly be more widely used.

2) Encourage self learning and an individual examination of Web2.0 capabilities and use grass-roots efforts to change big organizations, or

3) Establish formal training programs, strong evangelism and executive leadership towards a vision of Web2.0.

I have seen all three of these use cases.  Organizations that follow the first path are generally poorly led groups that I don’t want to write more about because they make my blood boil.   Organizations that take the second path are frequently great places with great people, but for whatever reason the leadership is not rushing towards Web2.0 (but they are not afraid of change either).  The third path is the one I believe is usually the right path.   I favor rapid Web2.0 adoption, since this leads to a more rapid contribution to mission success and organizational accomplishment.

One example in the federal space of an organization on the third path is NGA, the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency.  NGA has a broad mission that involves support to almost every element of our society.  They produce charts of all US waterways, maps of the entire globe, and imagery where ever it is needed.  They respond to natural disaster and also plan for smooth success in major national events.

NGA has been a thought leader in bringing concepts like mashups to enterprises and to support to our citizens.  They have also been leaders in liberating information and ensuring maximum use of human potential is realized.

From what I have seen, NGA encourages a culture of continuous learning, which is required for rapid adoption of Web2.0 capabilities.  We have seen time and again the fact that new tools and technologies alone do not transform– true transformation comes when new tools and techniques are smartly applied.  And NGA invests in ensuring new tools are applied by ensuring the right amount of training is provided.

It is hard to prove this assertion– part of my opinion comes from seeing good people at work in good organizations.  But I did come across an interesting pie-chart.   It shows some unclassified data on agencies and military commands that have users editing the Intelligence Community’s now famous Wiki, Intellipedia.

The chart is below.   It shows the number of Intellipedia editors on the Top Secret IC network (JWICS) with 500 or more edits.  It is sorted by organization (similar analysis of usage levels has yet to be done on the secret and unclassified networks).

NGA is one of the largest slices of the pie, due to their good, formal training program.  The other large slices are also from groups that have good training/mentoring efforts where senior executives take a special interest.

A conclusion from the above:  All organizations should consider their approachs to the use of Web2.0 and other new technologies.   The best approach for large organizations may be to establish a cadre of trainers.  Super-users who know technology and know new collaborative ways of work can be powerful agents of change.

Bob Gourley

Bob Gourley is the co-founder and CTO of Crucial Point LLC and is the former CTO of the Defense Intelligence Agency. Bob blogs on enterprise IT at CTOvision.com

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